Provide executive coaching to presidents, senior administrators and board chairs.
Effective coaching is done in context. After gaining as full an understanding as I can of the circumstances of each of those whom I advise, I work closely with them to identify and solve problems and to advance the institution. When, for example, my clients believe that they are confronted only with two negative alternatives, I works with them to discover a third (or even a fourth or fifth) alternative. Such projects often begin with confidential conversations both with the person I am coaching and those with whom he or she works most closely, sometimes as part of a campus visit.
Advise boards and presidents about board development, organization, roles and responsibilities.
At the beginning of such projects, I first gain as clear an understanding as I can of how the president, the board chair and the trustees generally perceive the board’s effectiveness. I then review the board’s make-up, its committee structure and board minutes for the last several years. With an emphasis on the board and president becoming strategic partners and with the board focusing on strategy rather than tactics, on policy rather than operations and on the significant rather than the trivial, I work with the board and the president to develop and embrace best board practices.
Develop and implement effective strategic assessment and planning processes, integrating strategic planning, financial planning, fundraising and public relations.
Working closely with the president, the board leadership, members of the faculty and senior staff, I first assess existing plans and then recommend a process for collaborative, transparent and ongoing planning that involves all key constituents. I believe it essential that at the outset the president clarifies and the board approves the goals of the planning process, the desired outcomes, the timetable, who will be involved, who will be responsible for making which decisions, and the method of assessment. I am also available to facilitate the work of on-campus planning teams and to draft the plan itself.
Develop more effective shared governance structures and processes.
Shared governance projects first require an in-depth understanding of how governance is currently practiced at the college or university and the nature of the institution’s internal and external challenges. For such projects, I typically ask board members, the president, the senior staff and the faculty first to fill out a survey, submitted to me anonymously, that describes their understanding of shared governance. After reading pertinent governance documents, I typically spend several days on campus talking with individuals and groups prior to writing a report that both assesses how governance is currently being practiced and makes recommendations for more effective practices going forward.
Facilitate retreats for boards, senior leadership, faculty and staff.
Facilitating such retreats benefit from significant conversations with key participants prior to the retreats about the major strategic issues facing the institution. The agendas for board retreats are typically developed in collaboration with the board chair, other trustees in leadership positions and the president. The agendas for campus retreats are developed in collaboration with the president and pertinent members of the campus community. For such retreats, I often prepare a presentation about the landscape of American higher education and its impact on the particular college or university.
Draft institutional documents, grants proposals and presidential communications.
Providing successful drafts requires a significant understanding of the institution, the ability to craft clear and persuasive prose, and an attentiveness to tone. I am also available to edit such documents.
Facilitate successful presidential transitions.
In crafting a transition plan, I work closely with the chair of the presidential search committee, the chair of the board and the president-elect to suggest ways for the president-elect to gain a deep understanding of the campus prior to assuming the presidency and to be introduced to and listen to key constituents. I also help the institution develop a communications plan.
Conduct 360° evaluations of presidents.
Such evaluations are meant to be constructive. I generally work with a small group of trustee leaders who constitute either a standing or an ad hoc presidential evaluation committee and talk at length prior to beginning the process with the president. I then review the formal expectations for the president’s performance, any earlier evaluations and pertinent institutional data. I next visit the campus, meeting extensively with the president and conducting confidential conversations with those who report directly to the president, key members of the campus community selected by virtue of their role on campus (e.g. chair of the faculty senate and chairs of key faculty and staff committees) and trustees. I talk by phone with trustees unable to meet on campus, I also keep the president informed at each stage of the process. I then prepare a written evaluation with recommendations going forward which the president reviews for accuracy prior to submitting it to the board committee. I then tailor this written document to the wishes of the trustee committee, for example sometimes sharing my conclusions orally with the board and sometimes drafting an executive summary.
Review and make recommendations about curriculum.
Such reviews range from core curriculum or general education requirements to requirements for particular programs (e.g. Business and Education) that also take into account various accreditation requirements.
Review and make recommendations about organizational structure.
Such reviews might focus on the organization of programs and departments within a college, on the organization of graduate programs within a university and on opportunities for shared services.